Is it possible for the SEC to get THREE teams into the playoffs?

The loss of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could be a factor in whether or not the Crimson Tide gets into the playoffs.John David Mercer/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

Earlier this month I was speaking to a group of football fans in Alabama and somebody asked this:

“Is there ANY WAY that the SEC could get three teams into the College Football Playoff?”

I laughed and said: “No. There is no way that the selection committee would ever let that happen.”

Well, not so fast my friend!

While I still think it would never happen, if a few things fall into place over the next two weeks, there could at least be a discussion about three SEC teams getting in.

And you’ve got to admit, the entertainment value of watching the rest of the country lose their collective minds over the idea would be off the charts.

So how could this happen? Let’s start here:

**--No. 6 Oregon and No. 8 Penn State both recorded their second losses of the season on Saturday. They are out.

**--Georgia (at Georgia Tech), LSU (vs. Texas A&M), and Alabama (at Auburn) all need to win on Saturday.

**--No. 4 Georgia needs to upset No. 1 LSU in the SEC championship game on Dec. 7. Then:

Georgia, 12-1 and SEC Champions, would be in the playoffs.

LSU, 12-1 with wins over Florida, Auburn, and Alabama plus a road win at Texas, would be in.

Alabama would be 11-1 with its only loss being by five points to LSU. The Crimson Tide would also be without their starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. More on that later.

So in that scenario Georgia and LSU are in. I also think Ohio State will be 13-0 and in. So how does Alabama get in?

Here’s one way:

**--Clemson loses at South Carolina on Saturday or gets upset by Virginia or Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game on Dec. 7. Virginia Tech (8-3) beat Pittsburgh 28-0 on Saturday and is playing well. The Hokies meet the Cavaliers (8-3) on Friday in Charlottesville for the ACC Coastal Division championship.

Could the committee still put a 12-1 Clemson team in that does not have a win against a ranked opponent? Sure they could.

**--Oregon beats Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and both teams finish 11-2.

**--Baylor (10-1) loses Saturday at Kansas and then beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Both teams finish 11-2

Under this scenario the committee’s choices for No. 4 would be:

**--11-1 Alabama.

**--12-1 Clemson.

**--11-2 Oregon

**--11-2 Utah

**--11-2 Oklahoma

**--11-2 Baylor.

And what if Baylor beats Kansas and Oklahoma to finish 12-1?

Could the committee put in a 12-1 Baylor over an 11-1 Alabama? Absolutely. Baylor would be a conference champion and will have avenged its only loss.

The committee’s rules state that for a team that is not a conference champion to be included in the playoffs, that team must be “unequivocally” one of the best four teams in the nation.

In 2017 Alabama was in this same situation and the committee took the Crimson Tide and left the Big Ten champion ( Ohio State) out. Ohio State had two losses and one was by 31 points at Iowa.

It is at this point of the discussion that Tua’s absence would come into play. Could the committee conclude that without Tua, Alabama is not unequivocally one of the best four teams in the country?

This comes directly from the CFP’s list of voting principles which says the committee can consider:

“Other relevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.”

It would be a very lively discussion.

Now if Alabama loses at Auburn on Saturday this discussion will be over. But if Alabama beats Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium it could be a lot of fun.


Tony Barnhart